Tennessee’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a data-driven, problem-solving framework that organizes and integrates student supports to improve learning outcomes for all students. This framework is defined by four essential components: a multi-level prevention and intervention system, screening, progress monitoring, and data-based decision making.

Multi-Level Prevention System

A multi-level prevention system organizes evidence-based instructional practices and interventions into levels, or tiers, to efficiently meet the academic and non-academic needs of all students. With each tier, the intensity of support increases. Together, they create a continuum of support that ensures all learners can access and benefit from high-quality educational programming. An effective multi-level prevention system relies on responsive and engaging instruction across all tiers.

Tier I – Universal Support: Support provided to all students in academic and non-academic instruction. Approximately 80 to 85 percent of students typically respond to this level of support.

Tier II – Targeted Intervention: Systematic and evidence-based supplemental support for small groups of students with similar academic or non-academic needs. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of students who do not adequately respond to Tier I support will need targeted intervention.

Tier III – Intensive intervention: Individualized intervention designed to support the academic and non-academic needs not adequately addressed through Tier I or Tier II supports; individualization should be systematic and ­data-based. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of students will need Tier III support.


Universal screening uses a systematic process for identifying students who may be at risk for poor academic and non-academic outcomes. Universal screening can be used at a district level to identify schools that may need additional school-wide supports, at a school level to identify grades or specific classes that may need additional supports, and, finally, at a classroom level to identify individual students who need may additional support and intervention.

Screening should be conducted three times a year with all students and include procedures to ensure fidelity of implementation across the school. Districts should choose universal screeners for academic and non-academic concerns that are reliable, include correlations between instruments and valued outcomes, predict accurate risk status for individual students, and allow staff to share the supporting evidence with colleagues and family members (Center on MTSS, 2020).

Universal screening data should be used along with at least two other data sources to verify individual student risk and inform intervention and supports provided to the student.

Progress Monitoring  

Progress monitoring is used to assess student academic performance and quantify student rate of improvement or responsiveness to the intervention (TDOE, 2017). Students who are identified through universal screening as needing additional support or intervention should be progress monitored using valid and reliable tools that measure the basic skill being supported by the intervention.

Districts should select progress monitoring tools that specify minimum acceptable growth, provide benchmarks for minimum acceptable end-of-year performance, have sufficient number of alternate forms of equal and controlled difficulty at recommended intervals based upon intervention level, and provide valid and reliable information about performance-level scores (Center on MTSS, 2020).

At Tiers II and III, student progress should be monitored with measures that are at the student’s instructional level, and this should take place at least bi-weekly during the intervention block. Highly trained personnel should administer the progress monitoring tool, and classroom teachers should continuously analyze the progress monitoring data (TDOE, 2017).

Data-Based Decision Making

The final essential component of an MTSS Framework is data-based decision making. Data-based decision making occurs at all levels of MTSS implementation (e.g., student through district level). It is the ongoing process of collecting and analyzing multiple data sources to make decisions. MTSS teams use the process to problem-solve and make decisions about implementation, instruction, and intervention. The process is most effective when it is agreed upon and supported by a data system that can access individual student data and show student responsiveness instruction and intervention across tiers.


When districts and schools approach implementation of an MTSS framework with a focus on these four essential components, they will be equipped to meet the needs of their community responsively. If you are interested in implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Supports in your district, contact your regional technical assistance partners at the Tennessee MTSS Center. To learn more, please visit the About Us page on our website.


Tennessee Department of Education. (2017, February). Response to instruction and intervention framework. https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/education/special-education/rti/rti2_manual.pdf

Tennessee Department of Education. (2018, March). Overview of students supports in Tennessee. https://www.tn.gov/education/student-support/student-supports-in-tn.html

Center on Multi-Tiered System of Supports at the American Institute for Research. (2020, March). MTSS fidelity of implementation rubric. https://mtss4success.org/sites/default/files/2021-04/MTSS-IntegRubricMarch2021-508.pdf

Center on Multi-Tiered System of Supports at the American Institute for Research. (2021, October 15). Multi-level prevention system. https://mtss4success.org/essential-components/multi-level-prevention-system